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Reform Magazine | December 5, 2023

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I remember it well 2

I remember it well 2

Geoffrey Roper recalls 1972

For years we had been issued pamphlets in blue (Presbyterian colour) or brown (Congregational) setting out principles, proposals, drafts and finally the Scheme of Union and parliamentary bill. These were discussed and debated (sometimes heatedly, sometimes boringly) and then the barrister who was drafting the legal details died and that meant postponement for another year. Finally we had to vote, in church meetings, presbyteries, county unions and national assemblies. On 11 May 1971 the two assemblies approved the Scheme (the Congregationalists in Westminster Chapel quickly, the Presbyterians in Newcastle with longer deliberation).

Through my brother John, elected to parliament in 1970, I had notice of the committee hearings and attended in a meeting room beside Cromwell’s statue. Barristers explained to four MPs the principles and procedure followed to approve the union. Parliament wasn’t being asked to decide whether the union could go ahead, only whether the law of charity trusts could be altered so that church buildings would be held by the new Church and the various church funds administered accordingly (to be shared with congregations which hadn’t voted to unite). Ian Paisley was present, clutching an act about trusteeship of local churches and church ‘corporations’…

Geoffrey Roper was minister at Streatham URC in 1972


This is an extract from an article published in the October 2022 edition of Reform

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